Bill Nye: Creationism Is ‘Raising A Generation Of Young People Who Can’t Think’

The biggest danger creationism plays, according to Bill Nye the “Science Guy,” is that it is raising a generation of children who “can’t think” and who “will not be able to participate in the future in same way” as those who are taught evolution.

Speaking on MidPoint, Nye said he blames an older generation of evangelicals “who have very strong conservative views” and who are “reluctant to let kids learn about evolution.” Their presence on school boards leads to debates over curriculum, Nye argued, which further inhibits schools’ ability to teach facts.

“Religion is one thing. People get tremendous comfort and community with their religions,” Nye said. “But whatever you believe, whatever deity or higher power you might believe in, the Earth is not 6,000 years old.”

Nye, who has a new book out titled “Undeniable: Evolution and the Science of Creation,” recently participated in a debate with creationist Ken Ham, which some argued was a moment of embarrassment for the science community.

University of Chicago evolution professor Jerry A. Coyne called the debate “pointless and counterproductive.” The Guardian’s Pete Etchells wrote:

Scientific literacy is crucial for society to function effectively, which means that we can’t afford to be messing around with the way that it’s taught in the classroom or wasting our time with fruitless public debates.

Nye stood by the debate, however, saying he “stepped into the lion’s den” in order to spread awareness about the academic opportunities children are denied by being creationism.

“They will not have this fundamental idea that you can question things, that you can think critically, that you can use skeptical thought to learn about nature,” Nye told MidPoint. “These children have to suppress everything that they can see in nature to try to get a world view that’s compatible with the adults in who they trust and rely on for sustenance.”

H/T RawStory


Bruce Jessen Built CIA Interrogation Program; Quit Role As Mormon Bishop
SPOKANE WASHINGTON
SPOKANE, Wa. – One of the chief architects of the CIA’s harsh interrogation program said on Thursday he had to quit as leader of his Mormon church in 2012 amid controversy about his role in fighting terrorism.

No senior policymakers or CIA officials have been charged for the maltreatment of suspects, but at least for former Air Force psychologist Bruce Jessen there has been a repercussion at a local level for his part in the so-called “war on terror.”

Jessen resigned as bishop of a Mormon congregation in Spokane, Washington after civil liberties and human rights activists criticized his professional past in the local newspaper.

“I just felt it would be unfair for me to bring that controversy to a lot of other people, so I decided to step down,” Jessen told Reuters outside his home south of Spokane.

The CIA paid $80 million to a company run by Jessen and another former Air Force psychologist, James Mitchell, according to a U.S. Senate report released this week. The report said the pair recommended waterboarding, slaps to the face and mock burial for prisoners suspected of being terrorists.

The pair are referred to by pseudonyms in the report but intelligence sources have identified them by name. Mitchell said earlier this week the report was a “bunch of hooey.” Jessen said a nondisclosure agreement prevented him from commenting.

“It’s a difficult position to be in,” he said. “You want to set the record straight.” He accused the media of publishing “distortions” about CIA interrogation methods.

Jessen, 65, had only spent a week in the role as head of his 300-member Spokane congregation when he stepped down in October, 2012.

“This was due to concerns expressed about his past work related to interrogation techniques,” said Eric Hawkins, a national spokesman in Salt Lake City for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, as the Mormon faith is formally known.

The position of bishop is unpaid and part-time but well-respected in the Mormon world.

“Local leaders met with Jessen and together determined that it would be difficult for him to serve as an effective leader in that position,” Hawkins said.

A bishop normally serves three to six years, he added. Jessen remains a member of the same congregation.

The American Psychological Association – to which Jessen and Mitchell do not belong and are thus not subject to discipline – has called for the pair to be held accountable. But U.S. officials say there will be no criminal charges. (Reporting by Matt Spetalnick in Washington DC and Jacob Jones in Spokane. Writing by Alistair Bell, editing by Ross Colvin)


Why Were So Many Beloved Christmas Songs Written By Jewish Musicians?

IRVING BERLIN
(RNS) Christians don’t seem to mind that so many beloved Christmas songs were written by Jews, and Jews tend to reel off the list with pride.

White Christmas. Let It Snow. Santa Baby. I’ll Be Home for Christmas. Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire. Silver Bells. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.

Those not mentioned here could fill an album.

But why didn’t the Jews write any similarly iconic songs for their holiday that falls around Christmastime: Hanukkah, the Jewish Festival of Lights?

“I Have a Little Dreidl”? Great song … if you’re 4.

There are reasons that Jews are good at Christmas songs and why so many of these songs became so popular. And there are reasons why Jews didn’t write similarly catchy tunes for Hanukkah — or any other Jewish holiday.

But first, a little music history.

In the first half of the 20th century, Jews flocked to the music industry. It was one business where they didn’t face overwhelming anti-Semitism, said Michael Feinstein, the Emmy Award-winning interpreter of American musical standards.

“White Christmas,” written by Jewish lyricist Irving Berlin, topped the charts in 1942 and launched popular Christmas music, encouraging many others — Jews and non-Jews — to write more odes to the holiday.

And although celebrating the birth of Christ was not something these Jewish songwriters would want to do, they could feel comfortable composing more secular Christmas singles.

“The Christmas songs that are popular are not about Jesus, but they’re about sleigh bells and Santa and the trappings of Christmas,” Feinstein said. “They’re not religious songs.”

In their music and lyrics, Jews captured Christmas not only as a wonderful, wintry time for family gatherings, but also as an American holiday. What they drew on, said Rabbi Kenneth Kanter, an expert on Jews and popular culture at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Cincinnati, was their background as the children of European-born Jews, or as immigrants themselves, in the case of Russian-born Berlin and others.

Jewish songwriters’ own successful assimilation and gratitude to America pervades their midcentury Christmas and other songs, and appealed to a country that wanted to feel brave and united as it fought World War II.

“These songs made Christmas a kind of national celebration, almost a patriotic celebration,” Kanter said.

The irreligious nature of these Christmas songs may not sit well with pious Christians, said Feinstein, who is Jewish and who cut “A Michael Feinstein Christmas,” among many other albums. But they are now part of the fabric of our larger culture, he said, and “any singer who is a singer of the American songbook will sing Christmas songs,” said Feinstein. “We all sing them.”

Feinstein is in good Jewish company. Barbra Streisand made “A Christmas Album.” Neil Diamond cut not only “A Christmas Album,” but also “A Christmas Album, Volume II,” and then a “Cherry, Cherry Christmas.” This year, Idina Menzel, who started out singing at bar mitzvahs and is best-known as the strong, melodic voice in the hit movie “Frozen,” just came out with the very Christmas-y “Holiday Wishes.” This list is far from exhaustive.

And how about Hanukkah songs?

First, singers want an audience, and with Jews making up less than 2 percent of the U.S. population, and Christians nearly 80 percent, the natural market for Hanukkah tunes is relatively tiny. Though the story of Hanukkah is about religious freedom, a theme Americans can relate to, few know the tale of the ancient Maccabees — how they threw off their Hellenistic oppressors, and the drop of oil which miraculously lit their lamp for eight days.

Feinstein, who was raised in a Conservative synagogue in Columbus, Ohio, said many people have tried to get him to lend his voice to a Hanukkah song, but he’s just not that interested.

“They usually are in a minor key,” he said. “And there isn’t as much imagery that one can put into a Hanukkah song compared to Christmas.”

There are still plenty of tuneful and moving Hanukkah songs, some of them in major keys — the rousing “Al Hanisim,” for example. But many are written in languages other than English — Hebrew, Yiddish and Ladino — and aren’t going to get much airplay in the U.S.

But a growing body of Hanukkah music aims to break through the subdued and somber stereotype.

In 1982, for example, the folk trio Peter, Paul and Mary first performed “Light One Candle,” a social action song that invokes the Maccabees’ struggle.

The Jewish reggae star Matisyahu came out with “Miracle” in 2011. And the Maccabeats, an a capella group based at Yeshiva University, remade the pop song “Dynamite” into a 2010 Hanukkah hit called “Candlelight.”

And then there’s Kenny Ellis, the cantor at Temple Beth Ami in Santa Clarita, Calif., who is on a mission to convince Jews and non-Jews alike that Hanukkah songs can be a zippy part of the national songbook. Each Hanukkah, Ellis sings from his 2005 album, “Hanukkah Swings,” a big-band take on some of the most well-known Hanukkah songs, starting with “Swingin’ Dreidel.”

To Ellis’ delight, Feinstein once sang “Swingin’ Dreidel” in his New York nightclub. It wouldn’t hurt if more Jewish singers tried a Hanukkah song or two, Ellis said. Maybe a whole album.

“I love all the Jewish performers that do Christmas albums,” Ellis said. “But what’s the big deal about doing a Hanukkah album? Does anyone think that if Barbra Streisand did a Hanukkah album, that her career would be finished?”


The Christian Terrorist Movement No One Wants To Talk About

Thornhill Baptist Church in Hudson, Michigan, where Hutaree Christian militia member Joshua Stone and his father David Brian Stone were members.

Thornhill Baptist Church in Hudson, Michigan, where Hutaree Christian militia member Joshua Stone and his father David Brian Stone were members.

CREDIT: AP

Last Friday, Larry McQuilliams was shot and killed by police after unleashing a campaign of violence in Austin, Texas, firing more than 100 rounds in the downtown area before making a failed attempt to burn down the Mexican Consulate. The only casualty was McQuilliams himself, who was felled by officers when he entered police headquarters, but the death toll could have been far greater: McQuilliams, who was called a “terrorist” by Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo, had several weapons, hundreds of rounds of ammunition, and a map pinpointing 34 other buildings as possible targets — including several churches.

While the impetus for McQuilliams’ onslaught remains unclear, local authorities recently announced that he may have been motivated by religion — but not the one you might think. According to the Associated Press, police officers who searched McQuilliams’ van found a copy of “Vigilantes of Christendom,” a book connected with the Phineas Priesthood, an American white supremacist movement that claims Christian inspiration and opposes interracial intercourse, racial integration, homosexuality, and abortion. Phineas priests take their name from the biblical figure Phinehas in the book of Numbers, who is described as brutally murdering an Israelite man for having sex with a foreign woman, who he also kills. Members of the Phineas Priesthood — which people “join” simply by adopting the views of the movement — are notoriously violent, and some adherents have been convicted of bank robberies, bombing abortion clinics, and planning to blow up government buildings. Although McQuilliams didn’t leave a letter explaining the reason for his attack, a handwritten note inside the book described him as a “priest in the fight against anti-God people.”

McQuilliams’ possible ties to the Phineas Priesthood may sound strange, but it’s actually unsettlingly common. In fact, his association with the hateful religious group highlights a very real — but often under-reported — issue: terrorism enacted in the name of Christ.

To be sure, violent extremism carried out by people claiming to be Muslim has garnered heaps of media attention in recent years, with conservative pundits such as Greta Van Susteren of Fox News often insisting that Muslim leaders publicly condemn any acts of violence perpetrated in the name of Islam (even though many already have).

But there is a long history of terrorist attacks resembling McQuilliams’ rampage across Austin — where violence is carried out in the name of Christianity — in the United States and abroad. In America, the Ku Klux Klan is well-known for over a century of gruesome crimes against African Americans, Catholics, Jews, and others — all while ascribing to what they say is a Christian theology. But recent decades have also given rise to several “Christian Identity” groups, loose organizations united by a hateful understanding of faith whose members spout scripture while engaging in horrifying acts of violence. For example, various members of The Order, a militant group of largely professed Mormons whose motto was a verse from the book of Jeremiah, were convicted for murdering Jewish talk show host Alan Berg in 1984; the “Army of God”, which justifies their actions using the Bible, is responsible for bombings at several abortion clinics, attacks on gay and lesbian nightclubs, and the explosion at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, Georgia; and Scott Roeder cited the Christian faith as his motivation for killing George Tiller — a doctor who performed late-term abortions — in 2009, shooting the physician in the head at point-blank range while he was ushering at church.

These incidents have been bolstered by a more general spike in homegrown American extremism over the past decade and a half. Between 2000 and 2008, the number of hate groups in America rose 54 percent according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, and white-supremacist groups — including many with Christian roots — saw an “explosion” in recruitment after Barack Obama was elected the country’s first African-American president in 2008. In fact, the growth of this and other homegrown terrorist threats has become so great that it spurred then-Attorney General Eric Holder to revive the Domestic Terror Task Force in June of this year.

Christian extremism has ravaged other parts of the world as well. Northern Ireland and Northern India both have rich histories of Christian-on-Christian violence, as does Western Africa, where the Lord’s Resistance Army claims a Christian message while forcibly recruiting child soldiers to terrorize local villages. Even Europe, a supposed bastion of secularism, has endured attacks from people who say they follow the teachings of Jesus. In 2011, Anders Behring Breivik launched a horrific assault on innocent people in and around Oslo, Norway, using guns and bombs to kill 77 — many of them teenagers — and wound hundreds more. Breivik said his actions were an attempt to combat Islam and preserve “Christian Europe,” and while he rejected a “personal relationship with Jesus Christ,” he nonetheless championed Christianity as a “cultural, social, identity and moral platform” and claimed the faith as the forming framework for his personal identity.

Chillingly, experts warn that something like Breivik’s attack could easily happen in the United States. Daryl Johnson, a former Department of Homeland Security analyst, said in a 2010 interview that the Hutaree, an extremist militia group in Michigan that touts Christian inspiration, possessed a cache of weapons larger than all the Muslims charged with terrorism the United States since the September 11 attacks combined.

Yet unlike the accusatory responses to domestic jihadist incidents such as the Fort Hood massacre, news of McQuilliams’ possible ties to the Christian Identity movement has yet to produce a reaction among prominent conservative Christians. Greta Van Susteren, for instance, has not asked Christian leaders such as Pope Francis, Rick Warren, or Billy Graham onto her show to speak out against violence committed in name of Christ. Rather, the religious affiliation of McQuilliams, like the faith of many right-wing extremists, has largely flown under the radar, as he and others like him are far more likely to be dismissed as mentally unstable “lone wolfs” than products of extremist theologies.

Granted, right-wing extremism — like Muslim extremism — is a complex religious space. Some participants follow religions they see as more purely “white” — such as Odinism — and others act more out of a hatred for government than religious conviction. Nevertheless, McQuilliams’ attack is a stark reminder that radical theologies exist on the fringes of most religions, and that while Muslim extremism tends to make headlines, religious terrorism is by no means unique to Islam.


10 of the Worst Terror Attacks by Extreme Christians and Far-Right White Men
Most of the terrorist activity in the U.S. in recent years has not come from Muslims, but from radical Christianists, white supremacists and far-right militia groups.
From Fox News to the Weekly Standard, neoconservatives have tried to paint terrorism as a largely or exclusively Islamic phenomenon. Their message of Islamophobia has been repeated many times since the George W. Bush era: Islam is inherently violent, Christianity is inherently peaceful, and there is no such thing as a Christian terrorist or a white male terrorist. But the facts don’t bear that out. Far-right white male radicals and extreme Christianists are every bit as capable of acts of terrorism as radical Islamists, and to pretend that such terrorists don’t exist does the public a huge disservice. Dzhokhar Anzorovich Tsarnaev and the late Tamerlan Anzorovich Tsarnaev (the Chechen brothers suspected in the Boston Marathon bombing of April 15, 2013) are both considered white and appear to have been motivated in part by radical Islam. And many terrorist attacks in the United States have been carried out by people who were neither Muslims nor dark-skinned.

When white males of the far right carry out violent attacks, neocons and Republicans typically describe them as lone-wolf extremists rather than people who are part of terrorist networks or well-organized terrorist movements. Yet many of the terrorist attacks in the United States have been carried out by people who had long histories of networking with other terrorists. In fact, most of the terrorist activity occurring in the United States in recent years has not come from Muslims, but from a combination of radical Christianists, white supremacists and far-right militia groups.

Below are 10 of the worst examples of non-Islamic terrorism that have occurred in the United States in the last 30 years.

1. Wisconsin Sikh Temple massacre, Aug. 5, 2012. The virulent, neocon-fueled Islamophobia that has plagued post-9/11 America has not only posed a threat to Muslims, it has had deadly consequences for people of other faiths, including Sikhs. Sikhs are not Muslims; the traditional Sikh attire, including their turbans, is different from traditional Sunni, Shiite or Sufi attire. But to a racist, a bearded Sikh looks like a Muslim. Only four days after 9/11, Balbir Singh Sodhi, a Sikh immigrant from India who owned a gas station in Mesa, Arizona, was murdered by Frank Silva Roque, a racist who obviously mistook him for a Muslim.

But Sodhi’s murder was not the last example of anti-Sikh violence in post-9/11 America. On Aug. 5, 2012, white supremacist Wade Michael Page used a semiautomatic weapon to murder six people during an attack on a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin. Page’s connection to the white supremacist movement was well-documented: he had been a member of the neo-Nazi rock bands End Empathy and Definite Hate. Attorney General Eric Holder described the attack as “an act of terrorism, an act of hatred.” It was good to see the nation’s top cop acknowledge that terrorist acts can, in fact, involve white males murdering people of color.

2. The murder of Dr. George Tiller, May 31, 2009. Imagine that a physician had been the victim of an attempted assassination by an Islamic jihadist in 1993, and received numerous death threats from al-Qaeda after that, before being murdered by an al-Qaeda member. Neocons, Fox News and the Christian Right would have had a field day. A physician was the victim of a terrorist killing that day, but neither the terrorist nor the people who inflamed the terrorist were Muslims. Dr. George Tiller, who was shot and killed by anti-abortion terrorist Scott Roeder on May 31, 2009, was a victim of Christian Right terrorism, not al-Qaeda.

Tiller had a long history of being targeted for violence by Christian Right terrorists. In 1986, his clinic was firebombed. Then, in 1993, Tiller was shot five times by female Christian Right terrorist Shelly Shannon (now serving time in a federal prison) but survived that attack. Given that Tiller had been the victim of an attempted murder and received countless death threats after that, Fox News would have done well to avoid fanning the flames of unrest. Instead, Bill O’Reilly repeatedly referred to him as “Tiller the baby killer.” When Roeder murdered Tiller, O’Reilly condemned the attack but did so in a way that was lukewarm at best.

Keith Olbermann called O’Reilly out and denounced him as a “facilitator for domestic terrorism” and a “blindly irresponsible man.” And Crazy for Godauthor Frank Schaffer, who was formerly a figure on the Christian Right but has since become critical of that movement, asserted that the Christian Right’s extreme anti-abortion rhetoric “helped create the climate that made this murder likely to happen.” Neocon Ann Coulter, meanwhile, viewed Tiller’s murder as a source of comic relief, telling O’Reilly, “I don’t really like to think of it as a murder. It was terminating Tiller in the 203rd trimester.” The Republican/neocon double standard when it comes to terrorism is obvious. At Fox News and AM neocon talk radio, Islamic terrorism is a source of nonstop fear-mongering, while Christian Right terrorism gets a pass.

3. Knoxville Unitarian Universalist Church shooting, July 27, 2008. On July 27, 2008, Christian Right sympathizer Jim David Adkisson walked into the Knoxville Unitarian Universalist Church in Knoxville, Tennessee during a children’s play and began shooting people at random. Two were killed, while seven others were injured but survived. Adkisson said he was motivated by a hatred of liberals, Democrats and gays, and he considered neocon Bernard Goldberg’s book, 100 People Who Are Screwing Up America, his political manifesto. Adkisson (who pleaded guilty to two counts of first-degree murder and is now serving life in prison without parole) was vehemently anti-abortion, but apparently committing an act of terrorism during a children’s play was good ol’ Republican family values. While Adkisson’s act of terrorism was reported on Fox News, it didn’t get the round-the-clock coverage an act of Islamic terrorism would have garnered.

4. The murder of Dr. John Britton, July 29, 1994. To hear the Christian Right tell it, there is no such thing as Christian terrorism. Tell that to the victims of the Army of God, a loose network of radical Christianists with a long history of terrorist attacks on abortion providers. One Christian Right terrorist with ties to the Army of God was Paul Jennings Hill, who was executed by lethal injection on Sept. 3, 2003 for the murders of abortion doctor John Britton and his bodyguard James Barrett. Hill shot both of them in cold blood and expressed no remorse whatsoever; he insisted he was doing’s God’s work and has been exalted as a martyr by the Army of God.

5. The Centennial Olympic Park bombing, July 27, 1996. Paul Jennings Hill is hardly the only Christian terrorist who has been praised by the Army of God; that organization has also praised Eric Rudolph, who is serving life without parole for a long list of terrorist attacks committed in the name of Christianity. Rudolph is best known for carrying out the Olympic Park bombing in Atlanta during the 1996 Summer Olympics—a blast that killed spectator Alice Hawthorne and wounded 111 others. Hawthorne wasn’t the only person Rudolph murdered: his bombing of an abortion clinic in Birmingham, Alabama in 1998 caused the death of Robert Sanderson (a Birmingham police officer and part-time security guard) and caused nurse Emily Lyons to lose an eye.

Rudolph’s other acts of Christian terrorism include bombing the Otherwise Lounge (a lesbian bar in Atlanta) in 1997 and an abortion clinic in an Atlanta suburb in 1997. Rudolph was no lone wolf: he was part of a terrorist movement that encouraged his violence. And the Army of God continues to exalt Rudolph as a brave Christian who is doing God’s work.

6. The murder of Barnett Slepian byJames Charles Kopp, Oct. 23, 1998. Like Paul Jennings Hill, Eric Rudolph and Scott Roeder, James Charles Kopp is a radical Christian terrorist who has been exalted as a hero by the Army of God. On Oct. 23, 1998 Kopp fired a single shot into the Amherst, NY home of Barnett Slepian (a doctor who performed abortions), mortally wounding him. Slepian died an hour later. Kopp later claimed he only meant to wound Slepian, not kill him. But Judge Michael D’Amico of Erin County, NY said that the killing was clearly premeditated and sentenced Kopp to 25 years to life. Kopp is a suspect in other anti-abortion terrorist attacks, including the non-fatal shootings of three doctors in Canada, though it appears unlikely that Kopp will be extradited to Canada to face any charges.

7. Planned Parenthood bombing, Brookline, Massachusetts, 1994. Seldom has the term “Christian terrorist” been used in connection with John C. Salvi on AM talk radio or at Fox News, but it’s a term that easily applies to him. In 1994, the radical anti-abortionist and Army of God member attacked a Planned Parenthood clinic in Brookline, Massachusetts, shooting and killing receptionists Shannon Lowney and Lee Ann Nichols and wounding several others. Salvi was found dead in his prison cell in 1996, and his death was ruled a suicide. The Army of God has exalted Salvi as a Christian martyr and described Lowney and Nichols not as victims of domestic terrorism, but as infidels who got what they deserved. The Rev. Donald Spitz, a Christianist and Army of God supporter who is so extreme that even the radical anti-abortion group Operation Rescue disassociated itself from him, has praised Salvi as well.

8. Suicide attack on IRS building in Austin, Texas, Feb. 18, 2010. When Joseph Stack flew a plane into the Echelon office complex (where an IRS office was located), Fox News’ coverage of the incident was calm and matter-of-fact. Republican Rep. Steve King of Iowa seemed to find the attack amusing and joked that it could have been avoided if the federal government had followed his advice and abolished the IRS. Nonetheless, there were two fatalities: Stack and IRS employee Vernon Hunter. Stack left behind a rambling suicide note outlining his reasons for the attack, which included a disdain for the IRS as well as total disgust with health insurance companies and bank bailouts. Some of the most insightful coverage of the incident came from Noam Chomsky, who said that while Stack had some legitimate grievances—millions of Americans shared his outrage over bank bailouts and the practices of health insurance companies—the way he expressed them was absolutely wrong.

9. The murder of Alan Berg, June 18, 1984. One of the most absurd claims some Republicans have made about white supremacists is that they are liberals and progressives. That claim is especially ludicrous in light of the terrorist killing of liberal Denver-based talk show host Alan Berg, a critic of white supremacists who was killed with an automatic weapon on June 18, 1984. The killing was linked to members of the Order, a white supremacist group that had marked Berg for death. Order members David Lane (a former Ku Klux Klan member who had also been active in the Aryan Nations) and Bruce Pierce were both convicted in federal court on charges of racketeering, conspiracy and violating Berg’s civil rights and given what amounted to life sentences.

Robert Matthews, who founded the Order, got that name from a fictional group in white supremacist William Luther Pierce’s anti-Semitic 1978 novel, The Turner Diaries—a book Timothy McVeigh was quite fond of. The novel’s fictional account of the destruction of a government building has been described as the inspiration for the Oklahoma City bombing of 1995.

10. Timothy McVeigh and the Oklahoma City bombing, April 19, 1995. Neocons and Republicans grow angry and uncomfortable whenever Timothy McVeigh is cited as an example of a non-Islamic terrorist. Pointing out that a non-Muslim white male carried out an attack as vicious and deadly as the Oklahoma City bombing doesn’t fit into their narrative that only Muslims and people of color are capable of carrying out terrorist attacks. Neocons will claim that bringing up McVeigh’s name during a discussion of terrorism is a “red herring” that distracts us from fighting radical Islamists, but that downplays the cruel, destructive nature of the attack.

Prior to the al-Qaeda attacks of 9/11, the Oklahoma City bombing McVeigh orchestrated was the most deadly terrorist attack in U.S. history: 168 people were killed and more than 600 were injured. When McVeigh drove a truck filled with explosives into the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, his goal was to kill as many people as possible. Clearly, McVeigh was not motivated by radical Islam; rather, he was motivated by an extreme hatred for the U.S. government and saw the attack as revenge for the Ruby Ridge incident of 1992 and the Waco Siege in 1993. He had white supremacist leanings as well (when he was in the U.S. Army, McVeigh was reprimanded for wearing a “white power” T-shirt he had bought at a KKK demonstration). McVeigh was executed on June 11, 2001. He should have served life without parole instead, as a living reminder of the type of viciousness the extreme right is capable of.


American Pastor Who Helped Uganda Create ‘Kill The Gays’ Law Will Be Tried For Crimes Against Humanity

Author: Jameson Parker

Most of us go our entire lives without ever standing trial for crimes against humanity. Then again, most of us aren’t notorious bigot Pastor Scott Lively, whose life work seems to be to ask the question: “How can I make gay people miserable across the world?”

In the United States Lively’s homophobic messages are largely ignored, and in recent years he has had to endure various setbacks at the state and federal level as equality makes historic gains. Undeterred, Lively has sought out foreign lands where his particular brand of ruthless anti-gay ideas are more accepted. In Uganda, he found a home away from home. During a Christian “workshop” in the African nation he managed to become one of the principal architects behind some of the most retrograde anti-gay legislation on the planet.

Officially titled the “Anti-Homosexuality Act” and more commonly known as the “Kill the Gays” bill, Lively’s vision was nothing less than a roadmap for the total persecution and eradication of homosexuals from Uganda. In Lively’s original design, anyone caught engaging in homosexuality would be executed. A newer bill softened that stance slightly after worldwide condemnation – in the latest version, homosexuals would only be sentenced to life in prison.

Unfortunately for Lively, orchestrating genocide in another country is kind of frowned upon, and in 2012 a lawsuit was filed against Lively in federal court in Massachusetts for crimes against humanity. This week, the First Circuit Court of Appeals denied Lively’s final request to have it dismissed because, well, the whole genocide thing.

During his lengthy appeals process, one would think that Lively would lay low and avoid saying anything that suggests he isn’t at all sorry for helping Uganda try to kill its gay population. Instead, Lively has continued to double down on his efforts to spread as much homophobia as possible. It’s gotten so bad that the watchdog group Human Rights Campaign dedicated September to chronicle the various ways Lively and his anti-gay ministry were “exporters of hate.

Scott Lively is the head of Abiding Truths Ministry in Springfield, Massachusetts and is known around the world for his notorious work successfully advocating for anti-LGBT laws in Uganda that could send LGBT people to prison for life. In fact, Lively has traveled the world over presenting himself as an expert on LGBT issues, urging lawmakers to crack down on LGBT rights and the right of free expression.

In 2007, Lively wrote in “Letter to the Russian People,” “Homosexuality is a personality disorder that involves various often dangerous sexual addictions and aggressive anti-social impulses.”

And this week, while he awaited his fate at his crimes against humanity trial, Lively told Trunews that homosexuality should be considered “more offensive” than mass killings, because gay people caused the Great Flood that wiped out the human race (technically, God did, and technically there is no evidence of that actually occurring, but who’s counting?).

“Homosexuality is not just another sin,” he said according to Right Wing Watch, “it is the sin that defines rebellion against God, the outer edge of rebellion against God and it is the harbinger of God’s wrath, that’s why the Scripture gives the warning, ‘as in the days of Noah.’”

In a way it makes sense that Lively would be adamant that homosexuality was worse than mass murder, considering that the mass murder of gay people is what he stands accused of trying to achieve.

Lively currently lives in Springfield, Massachusetts, and hopefully soon will have a permanent residency behind bars.

h/t Death and Taxes Magazine


Terrifying Law Turns Michigan Into A Theocracy — The Christian Right Is Coming For Your State Next

Author:
One of the core tenets of the United States established by the Founding Fathers was the separation of Church and State — but an expanding Christian Right wants to turn the U.S. into a religious state, where ideology trumps law — and they just succeeded in Michigan.

As Politicus USA reports:

“Despite protections in the U.S. Constitution and federal and state laws, the past six years have seen an increase in religious fundamentalists claim they have theocratic authority to punish women, gays, and any American unwilling to comply with their theocratic edicts. It is apparent that Americans have no more constitutional protections from religious tyranny than unarmed African Americans have from racist cops shooting them with impunity. It is astonishing, but the extremist Christian fundamentalists are basing their punitive power on the religious freedom guarantee in the First Amendment; with Supreme Court approval.”

And this week, religious tyranny came to Michigan, with House Bill 5958, The Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). This bill legalizes a Christian extremist’s religious freedom to discriminate, and commit other breaches in law and social mores. The law makes it legal to refuse service, deny employment, housing, and violate other citizens’ rights, any rights, if a theocrat claims it violates their religious freedom and objects on religious grounds.

As if this were not terrifying enough, our worst fears should be reserved for the Orwellian-titled  “conscience clause.”  This clause allows any Christian Fundamentalist working in the healthcare industry to cease a patient’s medical care if they claim their objection is founded on religious beliefs, and  the Healthcare provider would be obliged to send a patient away. This would give legal cover to religious pharmacists to refuse to fill prescriptions if they “think” a person is gay, a woman is a single mother, or the patient is the “wrong religion.” It would also mean a first responder, whether law enforcement, fire protection, or ambulance personnel can use “religious objections” to refuse to provide service to a person or group they feel violates their religious beliefs.

This move to theocracy was entirely foreseeable, it’s not like we haven’t had due warning. In his 2005 book American Theocracy: The Peril and Politics of Radical Religion, Oil, and Borrowed Money in the 21st Century American political writer Kevin Phillips provides a harsh critique of the past forty years of the Republican coalition in U.S. politics. He “presents a nightmarish vision of ideological extremism, catastrophic fiscal irresponsibility, rampant greed, and dangerous shortsightedness.”

Phillips points to three unifying themes holding this coalition together. First, its tie to oil and the role oil plays in American and world events. Second, to the coalition of social conservatives, Evangelicals and Pentecostals in this Republican coalition. Finally, he points to the “debt culture” of this coalition, and to a coming “debt bubble” related to the debt of the U.S. Government and U.S. consumers. In short, he argues, the U.S. has become the very thing it existed to escape — a theocratic colonial juggernaut in the shape of former world powers such as the Roman Empire and the British Empire as they declined from their peaks and fell into disarray.

One only has to take a glimpse at the nation today to see that Phillips was onto something — just look at what happened to the Pledge of Allegiance. Written in August, 1892, by the socialist minister Francis Bellamy, the original Pledge read:

“I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

But in 1954, President Eisenhower encouraged Congress to insert God into the Pledge. He claimed this would mark out the U.S. as a Christian nation in contrast to Cold War Russia as a Communist nation — as if the two were mutually exclusive, and morally opposed. Bellamy’s daughter objected to this alteration, which remains intact, and reads:

“I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

Over the years since, the Christian Right has continued to insert itself into the democratic institutions and processes of the state. Since the 1980’s, groups like the Moral Majority, the Christian Coalition, Focus on the Family and the Family Research Council have sought to turn their religious ideologies into law, with some success. The installation of born-again Christian George W. Bush in the White House saw the U.S. launch a Holy War against half the Muslim world, stalled U.S. progress in Stem Cell research, while the toxic combination of oil and debt crashed not only the U.S., but the global economy in the Financial Crisis of 2007/8.

Since then, we have seen the Christian Right launch a war against women through the Republican Party — limiting access to abortion and birth control, and lobbying against legislation to outlaw spousal rape.

And now, this concerted effort to enshrine the right to avoid anti-discrimination legislation by turning the U.S. into a theocracy, one state at a time.

There is a compelling reason that religious ideology should not trump law, and before he became one of the Christian Right’s favorite Supreme Court justices, Justice Antonin Scalia saw it too. In fact, writing for the majority in Employment Division v. Smith, Scalia said that the First Amendment freedom of religion does not allow individuals to break the law. He said:

“We have never held that an individual’s beliefs excuse him from compliance with an otherwise valid law prohibiting conduct that the state is free to regulate.”

Scalia said it would be “courting anarchy” to create exceptions every time a religious group claims that a law infringes on its religious freedom.

But Scalia and the rest of the Christian Right have squared that circle; they would rather live in religious theocracy than a secular democracy — whatever the consequences. The battle for America is on. Those citizens who want to live in a democracy will have to fight for it.